Burnout syndrome has gained more notoriety for some years now, but the fact is that it was first mentioned in 1974 by the psychologist Herbert J. Freudenberger.

Freudenberger detected the problem in himself and soon after observing some colleagues, he noticed that those who were under high pressure at work had shown similarities in their behavior. Living with a continuous overload of work, such individuals treated their patients with contempt and neglect. This was the beginning of studies on burnout.

Burnout syndrome, also known as "professional burnout syndrome", is a disorder that is directly linked to the factors that influence work-related health problems.

Although doctors are the professionals who take care of people's health, this does not prevent them from also suffering from burnout syndrome (BS). Recently made official by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a chronic syndrome, BS is nothing more than a prolonged response to chronic interpersonal stressors at work.

Depression, physical and mental exhaustion, feeling of incapacity and even suicidal thoughts can be considered some of the signs of burnout syndrome. In general, the syndrome manifests itself in people whose profession requires direct and intense interpersonal involvement.

Burnout does not happen overnight, but it can be the result of years of work accumulating. In the case of health professionals, often because they take themselves to the extreme, either physically or emotionally, tiredness, exhaustion, and demotivation end up being part of their daily lives. These characteristics, added to a few moments of rest, leisure and relaxation, may result in symptoms that lead to burnout.

Burnout and ICD-11

WHO has already announced the new version of the International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD). Launched in 1990, the ICD-1st now receives the 11th Review, where the ICD-11 reflects the changes and advances in medicine and technology that have taken place since then. The new classification has 55 thousand unique codes for injuries, diseases, and causes of death, while in the previous version (ICD-10) the total was 14,400. According to the description in ICD-11:

Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as a result of chronic stress in the workplace that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: 1) feeling of exhaustion or exhaustion of energy; 2) increased mental distance from work or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to work, and 3) a feeling of inefficiency and lack of accomplishment. Burnout refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.

The 12 stages of the syndrome

Herbert J. Freudenberger, together with the also psychoanalyst Gail North, organized a study where it is possible to walk the path that leads to burnout. This path goes through 12 stages, and they do not have exactly one order, but they can also occur in different intensities, depending on the case.

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Another important point is that there is the possibility of experiencing several phases at once, or even, there are those who go straight to the most serious phases. Find out more about each one of them.

  1. Need for approval - a compulsion to prove that you are doing a great job, either for colleagues or for yourself.
  2. Overwork - works more than usual, always the first to arrive and the last to leave, in addition to performing various tasks alone without the help of other people.
  3. Letting go of personal needs - starts to neglect self-care, such as eating, exercising, and even sleeping.
  4. Conflict repression - realizes that problems are happening, but cannot identify what they are or how they started; lack of time also becomes an obstacle to solving problems.
  5. Values review - work is the only focus; simple things that you used to see as wrong, are now seen as the right way to do things, such as the simple fact of taking time out to have a quiet lunch.
  6. Denial of the problem - initiates denial of emerging problems and blames others around you for not dedicating as much as you do. The emergence of impatience and irritability.
  7. Removal - with social contact drastically reduced, the individual's life is reduced to loneliness.
  8. Behavioral changes - memory loss, heightened sensitivity, inability to concentrate, in addition to feeling devalued and ceasing to give importance to one's work.
  9. Depersonalization - loss of contact with yourself and with your own needs, starting to see neither yourself nor others as something valuable, as if you were living on autopilot.
  10. Internal emptiness - there is a deep emptiness within you and in the search to fill it, there may be exaggerations in food or even drug use;
  11. Depression - life loses its meaning and there is no interest in anything.
  12. Burnout - the last stage is the time to get away from work. The individual feels unable to perform any activities, there is mental and/or physical exhaustion that can be fatal. At this stage, it is advisable to seek treatment with psychologists and psychiatrists; there may also be physical manifestations, such as tachycardia, panic attacks, among others.

As mentioned in the 12th stage of the syndrome, even if you are a health professional, you should seek help from professionals in the field of psychiatry and psychology so that you can carry out a treatment and return to the quality of life you expect.

Maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, and not forgetting leisure time is part of your recovery.